Thursday, February 3, 2011

Credential Crises at the end: Are we learning anything?

ht Inside Higher Ed via Marginal Revolution.
I have brought up before the concept of Credentialing Crises.  In effect, as established positions, often administrative, within the hierarchy for the middle-upper groups of society get tighter they begin to battle over these positions.  Since many of these positions cannot be readily be based on accomplishments, instead they go to the most credentialed.  It has the added advantage of helping to lock out those lower down the hierarchy who are less able to afford all these degrees.

 Another important reason for higher education is to signal certain attributes to potential employers.  Even within the private sector it can be difficult to show that you have specific merit for a particular position when you are just starting out.  But if you have an advanced degree or degrees you signal the a certain amount of discipline and ability to get along well enough with others to get through whatever obstacles academia has placed before you.

Have we said anything about learning anything?  No.  Why not?  Because it is very difficult to teach our Lumpkin TV feed little darlings how to think without twitching their texting digits.  Since learning and thought ability are of tertiary importance: why bother?

Don’t believe me?  A recent study, soon to be book, tested 2,300 students on their gains in learning over the course of their collegiate experience:

·         45 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" during the first two years of college.
·         36 percent of students "did not demonstrate any significant improvement in learning" over four years of college.
·         Those students who do show improvements tend to show only modest improvements….  A student who entered college in the 50th percentile of students in his or her cohort would move up to the 68th percentile four years later -- but that's the 68th percentile of a new group of freshmen who haven't experienced any college learning.

"How much are students actually learning in contemporary higher education? The answer for many undergraduates, we have concluded, is not much….  For many undergraduates…drifting through college without a clear sense of purpose is readily apparent."

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